Time for Abe to walk his talk

Updated: 2014-11-10 20:03


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BEIJING - The icy relations between China and Japan now appear to have finally entered the thawing season, with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting here Monday for the first time.

In their talks, Xi and Abe endorsed the four-point consensus reached Friday by Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Japanese National Security Secretariat chief Shotaro Yachi, and reaffirmed their willingness to advance bilateral ties.

In the wake of the momentous meeting and in view of the realities in China-Japan interaction, the top priority now is for Tokyo to honor its commitment and join China with concrete actions to fully restore the heat and vigor of bilateral ties.

The head-to-head, which took place on the sidelines of the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economic leaders' meeting, capped weeks of rumors and speculations in the international media arena, and culminated -- as can be safely inferred -- months of engagement and deliberations in the two countries' foreign policy circles.

Given that the China-Japan relationship has been icebound for two years, the landmark talk between Xi and Abe is of historic significance to the future interaction between the world's second and third largest economies, which are also major stakeholders in regional stability and development.

As is well known, after bilateral relations took a nosedive due to Japan's flagrant "nationalization" of China's Diaoyu Islands two years ago, the Abe administration further shattered the foundation of bilateral summitry with repeated provocations on historical and territorial issues. Only recently did Tokyo begin openly petitioning and secretly engaging China in back-channel consultations for the summit.

No matter what brought the Japanese prime minister to his China policy epiphany, be it his political ambition, economic aspiration or diplomatic calculation, Abe will find a ready partner in China for healing bilateral relations as long as he is sincere and serious.

China's agreement to the meeting is a clear manifestation of Beijing's magnanimity and sagacity. Given the geographical proximity, economic intertwinement and cultural affinity between the two nations, a healthy China-Japan relationship benefits both sides, and both the Chinese and the Japanese people deserve it and need it.

Now that the two countries have exhibited their will to break the ice, what comes next should be for both Beijing and Tokyo to give full play to their wisdom and courage so as to build on the momentum and speed up the thawing.

The undertaking is destined to be challenging. Tokyo sticking to a wrong course for too long has created an agonizing and inescapable reality that the ice trapping China-Japan relations is too thick to melt in a day or two.

But considering the unbearable cost of their estrangement should it persist and the enormous benefit a rapprochement can bring, it is the only viable way ahead that China and Japan forge ahead with their detente process.

The onus is primarily on Abe. It is Tokyo that cast the ice spell on China-Japan relations; it is also Tokyo that called for the Xi-Abe meeting. Now that Abe has talked the talk, he now needs to walk the walk.